Series: Wild Aces #2
Published by Berkley on July 5th 2016
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Eric Jansen—call sign Thor—loves nothing more than pushing his F-16 to the limit. Returning home to South Carolina after a tragic loss, he hopes to fix the mistake he made long ago, when he chose the Air Force over his fiancée. Becca Madison isn’t quick to welcome Thor back. She can’t forget how he shattered her heart. But Thor won’t give up once he’s set his sights on what he wants—and he wants Becca. Thor shows Becca that he’s no longer the impulsive boy he used to be, and Becca finds herself irresistibly drawn to him. But will Thor be able to walk away from his dream of flying the F-16 for their love or does his heart belong to the sky?
In ‘Into the Blue’, Becca and Thor’s reunion play out against the harsh demands of military life and the unrelenting call of duty, and much of the story is a (re)discovery of what they’ve had together and whether they could do it all again after the scars of the pasts. Chanel Cleeton’s writing is stellar, even in the very odd first person narrative that gives a new adult feel to the very adult story that’s being told here. Yet the standouts in this story are the main characters themselves, who, against all odds, find love again after a long decade: three-dimensional, flawed protagonists who never really grew larger than life because Cleeton has anchored them deep in human experience that any reader can relate to.
That said, put me on team Becca, stat.
There’s so much I loved about her: the unshakable sense of justice, the steadfast, uncompromising stance in knowing what she wanted and the sacrifice she’d been willing to make for Thor and the full support she’d given him before he’d thrown all back in her face. For that reason I fully understood and empathised with her cool, wary stance with Thor’s sudden reappearance – which I understood and empathised with much less. His reasons for returning and falling back together with Becca seemed incidental than deliberate and it left me wondering if he would have returned to her of his own volition had things still gone well for him in the air force. I did think it rather patronising when Thor’s granny offered ultimately meaningless excuses for his leaving, as though Becca hadn’t been enough for him to man up when he really needed to do so.
My nitpicking aside, what struck me deeply was Cleeton’s so very succinct articulation about military wives and girlfriends finding themselves torn between what their men’s careers demand of them and how much of their own desires they would have to deny. Beyond the sizzling chemistry and steamy bedroom scenes, Becca’s gutting, merciless arguments and demands of Thor must have at some point in time – extrapolating from the author’s acknowledgement of how personal this series is to her – paralleled Cleeton’s own personal misgivings and thoughts which give these particular scenes a weighty credence and resonance backed by real life experience.
The sense of tragedy isn’t as all-encompassing in this book as it was in the previous one, yet the weight of the personal price both Thor and Becca paid for their own happiness feels no lighter than the price the rest of the squadron paid when they lost one of their own. Even Thor/Becca’s happy ending is written as a potential reality rather than a confirmed one, as though their closing chapter can’t quite be written until the entire series is complete, or rather, until unrequited love gets its turn in the spotlight with Dani and Easy in the final book.
It’s sneaky as hell, but something very much to look forward to.